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Jun 18 14 10:12 PM
One of the poorest, most atheistic places in Europe, Albania is a natural destination for Francis
Francis will do great good in Europe’s only Muslim-majority country
Pope Francis is making a day long pastoral visit to Albania this coming September, he has announced. His words at yesterday’s Angelus were as follows: “I want to confirm the Church of Albania in the faith, and bear witness to my encouragement and love for a country that has suffered for so long in consequence of the ideologies of the past.”
This will be the second trip of any Pontiff to the country. (Saint John Paul II was there in the spring of 1993, also for one day.) Indeed, just a few decades ago, back in 1967, Albania, under the leadership of Enver Hoxha and the Party of Labour, was declared the world’s first atheist state. This declaration was not entirely fanciful. Hoxha and his thugs had destroyed every single place of worship, either by demolishing them or turning them into museums of atheism or sports halls. All the clergy were expelled, if they were lucky. This policy worked. Even today, Albania is one of the least religious countries in the world. About ten per cent of the country is Catholic, mainly concentrated in the northern part of the country, and no doubt they could do with a little encouragement from the Pope.
Albania suffers not just from a particularly brutal history under Communism – Comrade Hoxha was in the habit of shooting people dead at party meetings – and being the last country to shake off Communist rule. (Its communism was of a rather odd type, in that Hoxha quarrelled with the Russians, ploughing his own furrow, with some help from the Chinese.)
Until 1913, the country was part of the Ottoman Empire, being more or less the last major Balkan territory to be held by the Turks. Many Albanians served the Ottoman Empire with distinction, and several of the Grand Viziers were Albanian; it was part of the Ottoman tradition to recruit conquered peoples and co-opt them into government: the way this was done was through conversion to Islam. That the Albanians co-operated with the Turks is seen by the fact that even today about 60 per cent of the Albanian population is Muslim. This makes Albania the only European country to have a Muslim majority. (Of the other former Turkish territories, Bosnia is just under half Muslim; and Macedonia is about one-third Muslim.) But these Balkan Muslims are rather different from Muslims in Turkey or Arab countries. Being the last to convert, they wear their Islamic identity lightly. It is for this reason that various stricter exponents of Islam view the Balkans almost as missionary territory, and that much Saudi money has been spent in building mosques in the region.
After the fall of Communism, the Catholic Church had to restart its mission almost from scratch. Quite a few new churches have been built and parishes and dioceses established. Lots of foreign missionaries, from Italy in particular, have gone to work in the country. Seminaries have opened. What makes Albania a special case is that many thousands of Albanians live or have lived in Italy, as economic migrants, and therefore have had some contact with Catholicism and Catholic culture.
Albania is not the poorest country in Europe – that accolade goes to Moldova – but it must look that way to many travellers, quite a few of whom have written scathingly about it. It is certainly not well developed for tourism. Paul Theroux said some very rude things about the place in his book about the Mediterranean, The Pillars of Hercules. Dervla Murphy, the intrepid Balkan traveller, has also written about it in less than glowing terms. But for one traveller in particular, Albania is a natural destination. It has everything for someone like Pope Francis. It represents a turning towards the poor. It is a missionary land, where the Church is not comfortable, but very much on the edge. And it is a place where, I think, he will do much good. The Catholics in Albania must be thrilled by the news he is coming; and other Albanians too must take his visit as a compliment.
Jun 20 14 10:41 PM
Pope Francis to Venture Into Mafia Stronghold
Pope Francis has followed his predecessors in denouncing the Mafia. But his visit also throws a light on the relationship between the Catholic Church in Italy and the country's deeply rooted organized crime.
When Pope Francis visits the southern region of Calabria on Saturday, he will venture into the stronghold of one of the world’s biggest criminal organizations—one whose tentacles allegedly extend into local churches there, according to Italian prosecutors.
The pope will visit the small town of Cassano Jonico, where a 3-year-old child, Nicola “Coco” Campolongo, was killed along with his grandfather in January, allegedly by Calabria’s Mafia, known as the ‘Ndrangheta.
Born in one of Europe’s poorest regions, the ‘Ndrangheta has proved far harder for prosecutors to crack than the better-known Sicilian Mafia. Tight family ties and a low profile have helped it proliferate in Italy and abroad, resulting in an estimated annual turnover of €53 billion ($72 billion), or about 3.5% of the Italian economy, according to the research firm Demoskopika.
Pope Francis has followed his predecessors in denouncing the Mafia. But his visit also throws a light on the relationship between the Catholic Church in Italy and the country’s deeply rooted organized crime.
Traditionally ‘Ndrangheta bosses proudly professed their Catholic faith, looking to “exploit the bond between the church and large swaths of populations in southern Italy,” says Giuseppe Pignatone, a prosecutor who investigated Mafia cases in the region.
Mob bosses often requested that parish processions stop in front their homes as a way to thank them for paying for the celebrations, according to evidence gathered by magistrates for trials of alleged ‘Ndrangheta members.
“For too long the church has pretended not to see, allowing Mafia affiliates to raise money, build churches, organize the processions,” said Mafia expert Antonio Nicaso. “If this pope wants to turn the page he has to make a firm decision and draw a straight line. Only in this way he will keep Mafia members out of the church and will mark a real change from the past.”
Calabrian bishops issued a document in April in which they condemned Mafia as a “cancer…that tramples on the highest values and the most sacred aspects of life.” They also renewed the church’s appeal for Mafia members to repent.
In a statement Thursday, Bishop Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini said the church should work harder to overcome the divide between faith and day-to-day behavior. “However all italian institutions should examine their consciences,” he said, and not just priests who have made mistakes.
Investigations by Italian prosecutors have found that the ‘Ndrangheta has over the decades infiltrated the local church and other institutions.
According to evidence presented during mob trials, ‘Ndrangheta bosses gathered every Sept. 3 in a Catholic church high in the mountains, Santa Maria di Polsi, to “baptize” new members, discuss strategies and pray until at least 2009.
Nicola Gratteri, chief prosecutor in the Calabrian capital of Reggio Calabria, says he believes the meetings started during the 1890s and still occur. Images of the Madonna in the church have been found on many people arrested for ‘Ndrangheta association.
Pino Strangio, who has headed the sanctuary for 15 years, says he has never seen mob bosses meeting there.
“We as the church strongly condemn the ‘Ndrangheta and any other organized crime,” he said. He says he was never involved in any investigation or called to testify.
Some priests have been investigated for ‘Ndrangheta association. In one ongoing trial, a local prelate and police chaplain, Nuccio Cannizzaro, stands accused of making false statements and helping Mafia bosses.
Prosecutors say they have recordings of him, obtained through wiretaps, offering to use his Mafia ties to do favors for locals, such as skipping hospital waiting lists. “Nothing happened without [Father] Cannizzaro knowing,” said Stefano Musolino, the prosecutor on the case.
Father Cannizzaro denies the allegations, his lawyer said, and says that they are based on a misunderstanding. When the priest was indicted, local residents staged angry protests. A verdict could arrive next month.
Another priest, Salvatore Santaguida, is under investigation in a separate case for allegedly providing ‘Ndrangheta bosses with police information. The priest, who has been suspended as pastor of the local church, says he is innocent, his lawyer said.
Pope John Paul II took a strong public stance against organized crime. “Repent!” he said in Sicily in 1993. “God’s judgment will come.” Pope Benedict XVI called on young people not to give in to the Mafia’s promises.
Pope Francis has also called on Mafiosi to “change your life, convert, stop doing harm,” and voiced support for priests who refuse funeral rites for Mafia associates.
He became emotional when denouncing the killing of the Calabrian toddler Coco, who was caught up in an alleged mob hit. The car with the two bodies was then burned.
In March the pope prayed with the families of nearly 1,000 people allegedly killed by Italian organized crime. The Italian Catholic Church recently decreed that seminarians in Calabria must study the ‘Ndrangheta, so that they can fight it more effectively.
Giacomo Panizza, a priest who has lived in Calabria for 40 years, says he was threatened and shot at when he used a home confiscated from the ‘Ndrangheta as a center to help disabled.
For years, Father Panizza felt alone in fighting the Mafia in Calabria, he says, with local priests dismissing his concerns in the 1990s. “They used to say that I couldn’t understand because I was not born there,” recalls Father Panizza, who is originally from a northern Italian town.
“I feel safer today,” he says. “It’s harder to shoot a priest if the whole church is behind him.
Jun 30 14 4:00 PM
The press release revealed that the Pope is scheduled to make five public appearances over the course of the day starting with a meeting with workers in the regional capital Campobasso at 9am.
He will preside over Mass in the Stadium of Campobasso at 10.30am, after which he will travel to the Cathedral for a meeting with a group of sick people.
The Pope will have lunch with the poor at the Caritas soup kitchen in Campobasso and afterwards will travel by helicopter to Castelpetroso where he will meet with young people of Abruzzo and Molise in the Sanctuary of Castelpetroso at 3.15pm.
Pope Francis will then go, by car, to the city of Isernia where he will meet with prison inmates at the city detention center and after with the sick in the Cathedral.
At 6.15pm the Pope will be received by city authorities for the launch the Celestinian Jubilee Year.
He is scheduled to travel back to the Vatican in a Isernia Fire Brigade helicopter. Pope to travel to Molise on Saturday
Jul 4 14 8:46 AM
"I will go to Asia twice in six months. To Korea in August to meet with Asian young people. In January to Sri Lanka and the Philippines. The Church in Asia is a promise."Pope Francis said this in an interview published on the feast of the apostles Peter and Paul.But after Korea, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines, another Asian nation is already preparing to receive a visit from the pope: Japan.This has been revealed by an authoritative Japanese personality: Kagefumi Ueno, ambassador to the Holy See from 2006 to 2010, now a professor of civilization and culture at Kyorin University in Tokyo, and the author in 2011 of a book on the Vatican described through the eyes of an observer culturally far removed - of a Buddhist-Shintoist outlook - and yet highly interested.In a commentary published on June 21 in "The Japan News," the English-language publication of the leading Japanese newspaper "Yomiuri Shimbun," Ueno revealed that at his meeting last June 6 at the Vatican Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe "extended to the pope an invitation to visit Japan, to which the pope responded warmly.""Now, the two governments,” Ueno added, “are responsible for realizing a papal visit to Japan at the earliest possible opportunity, which is naturally a desire of the Japanese Catholic Church".*Japan has been a coveted destination for Jorge Mario Bergoglio since he was a young Jesuit. He himself has recounted how strongly he desired, as a novice, to go on mission to that country.There is a very strong bond between the Society of Jesus and Japan. Two of its last three superiors general have lived in Japan for many years: Pedro Arrupe and the current superior, Adolfo Nicolás. The Jesuits run the prestigious Sophia University in Tokyo.Also for another celebrity of the Society, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, Japan was long a dream destination.Just as China with Matteo Ricci, so also Japan had in the Jesuit Alessandro Valignano, at the end of the sixteenth century, a brilliant evangelizer who took great care to "inculturate" his missionary activity.But what Bergoglio, even as pope, has repeatedly expressed the greatest admiration for is the miraculous survival of the Catholic faith in Japan during the two hundred years, between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, in which the presence of missionaries and priests had been completely annihilated by the persecution:"When other missionaries came back after this period, they found all the communities in order: everyone baptized, everyone catechized, everyone married in church, and all the deceased given Christian burial. There were no priests. And who had done all of this? The ordinary baptized!"It is the conviction of Pope Francis that "we can learn a great deal from this history" and that Christianity can finally find fertile ground in Japan as well, in spite of the fact that the profuse effort of the Society of Jesus and others over the past few decades has produced very few conversions.*But Japan is also interested in strengthening relations with the Church of Rome.In his commentary in “The Japan News,” Kagefumi Ueno maintains that there are at least three areas in which Japan and the Holy See are in harmony.The first is the promotion of peace, thanks also to the fact that Japan - he writes - has "the world’s most pacifist Constitution" (although this is in the process of being modified, with the announcement of the inclusion of “collective defense,” or the possibility of intervening not only in the face of a direct offensive, but also in support of allies under attack).Another area of agreement is "on global issues including poverty, minorities, human rights, disarmament, denuclearization, the environment, corruption, the rule of law, terrorism and more." But there is also the fact that the Holy See and Japan share a “culture of diplomacy” that leads them to take positions that sometimes differ from those that dominate in the West, for example in establishing cordial relations with Iran, with the Islamic clergy of which the Catholic Church “traditionally keeps good ties.”In general - Ueno writes - both Japan and the Vatican "take a rather cautious, quiet approach on some delicate issues, refraining from hasty decisions or from using unequivocal words. Both are good at the culture of niceties and ambiguity."After recalling the profitable visit to Japan in 2009 by Vatican foreign minister Dominique Mamberti, Ueno concludes his commentary as follows:"Finally, it appears to me that the international community has two ultimate authorities of last resort—one is the Vatican, the ultimate moral authority (or the ultimate soft power), while the other is the United States, the ultimate military power (or the ultimate hard power). To have a close relationship with both of them will secure for Japan a profound sense of peace and security, the product of a good balance between idealism and realism. That’s exactly what Japan should quest for."
Jul 4 14 10:12 PM
Interview With Archbishop of Campobasso-Bojano Ahead of Pope's Visit
"May The Pope's Visit Reawaken A 'Slow' But Beautiful Land Such As Molise"
Pope Francis makes a pastoral visit to the dioceses of Campobasso and Isernia in the Italian region of Molise tomorrow. It goes without saying that the atmosphere there is one of joyful celebration, involving and profoundly affecting the life of 50,000 inhabitants, all caught up in preparations to make their city beautiful in view of the arrival of the Successor of Peter. Archbishop Giancarlo Bregantini of Campobasso-Bojano discusses this in the following interview with ZENIT, translated below, in which he describes a land rich in culture and humanity, but often somewhat ‘lazy’ in showing its infinite potentialities.
ZENIT: Your Excellency, let’s say that the Pope’s visit on July 5 to Campobasso-Isernia is somewhat the jewel in the crown of a series of events which this year have called great attention to the Church in Molise …
Archbishop Bregantini: It’s true. Everything stems from the gift of having had Campobasso as the “City of Peace” in the March for Peace at the beginning of the year. Then there was my choice, at the request of the Holy Father, as author of the meditations of Good Friday’s Via Crucis, which was followed by different formative initiatives. Finally, the announcement of the Pope’s visit at the end of March – something great …
ZENIT: How is your city living these last days of waiting?
Archbishop Bregantini: With growing enthusiasm. Initially it was only astonishment, then it became an awareness and, over the last weeks, an indescribable joy … There’s talk of nothing else here, it is all eagerness, mutual greeting, requests … The citizens are still incredulous on seeing the sports field, forever abandoned, now well prepared, beautiful, ordered and perfumed, with the reality of the altar built in the shape of a bell to recall the great passage of pastors in the course of the millennium … Truly a great joy.
ZENIT: What sort of reality will the Pope find in Molise?
Archbishop Bregantini: A fringe reality hovering between the south and the north. In the south there is religious popularity, the problem of unemployment, a certain “grey area” – not of the Mafia but “grey” which renders consciences somewhat slow and cloudy. However, in the south there is also cordiality, the beauty of encounter, the joy of being together … At the same time, it is a region projected to the north: in Italy, for instance, it is the one that registers the lowest rate of pollution and delinquency -- in sum, a reality with thousands of potentials.
ZENIT: The motto of Saturday’s visit is “God Does Not Tire of Forgiving.” What must be forgiven to Molise?
Archbishop Bregantini: There is a certain slowness to be forgiven, the fact that it does not always expose itself or is capable of taking a position, of valuing or at least coordinating an endeavor of appreciation of its historical, social and cultural riches …. This isn’t a whine but a prayer to the Lord that the grace that has come to us, namely, that the Pontiff chose to visit our land, may be an invitation to have this latent identity emerge, to exploit these values thoroughly. I like to use an image: Molise is like an ensemble of most beautiful colored glass pearls, however, it is necessary to strengthen the thread that strings them together, which is able to evidence it, because, even if the thread isn’t seen, its function is decisive. Now the Pope is coming to give us this “thread”: more identity, more unity, more strength.
ZENIT: Among the meetings planned, which is the one you look forward to most?
Archbishop Bregantini: All seven meetings are well connected. Listed as follows they seem like a little encyclical: work, city, the sick, the poor of the new structure of Caritas, young people, detainees, the greeting to the Region. Each stage is a piece of this encyclical. Perhaps the most awaited is the meeting with the world of work. It is certainly the most demanding. For that occasion we also invited Sergio Marchionne [CEO of the automaker FIAT], but who will be unable to participate because of commitments abroad, but who was very pleased with the warm message of invitation we sent him. FIAT is an establishment with 3,000 workers at Termoli; hence, his presence would be an encouragement for those working in this field. In any case, the world of work in Molise is not only FIAT: there are also several industries which are going through hard times due to the crisis, others that are shaky for reasons of management, other small enterprises that can’t find work outlets, which are relocated or can’t cope with the financial challenge. For Molise’s industry it is truly a very delicate moment.
ZENIT: Recalled especially of the Pope’s visit on June 21 to another place on the margins – Cassano all’Jonio – was his anathema against the Mafia, undoubtedly Calabria’s deepest wound. Instead, what wound will the Holy Father have to heal in Molise?
Archbishop Bregantini: Unemployment, the precariousness of youth, will certainly be an acid test on Saturday. At present, it is the main problem, which does not assail Molise alone, but is extended throughout the world. But not just this: the Pope’s presence will also highlight positive moments. It will give vigor, for instance, to the rural world, inviting us to an intelligent use of resources, fair prices, love of the land. Very important then will be the meeting in a structure such as the University of Campobasso where he will meet entrepreneurs and workers. I believe this union between the world of work and the world of formation is a dream to be realized.
ZENIT: Still with Pope Francis’ excommunication of the Mafia, what effect did the Holy Father’s words have on you who, during the years of your episcopate at Locri, always fought strenuously against organized crime?
Archbishop Bregantini: They were very explicit and courageous words. In March of 2006 I, myself, as Bishop of Locri, excommunicated those who poisoned the seedlings of the Policoro di Prati project in Locride. One thing, however, is the excommunication by a bishop, quite another that by the Pope. I am happy that the Holy Father made this very strong gesture. However, I would not want Calabria to be remembered only for this excommunication. The Pontiff’s discourse was of great intensity and profundity and it cannot be reduced to just one phrase … The invitation is also to all journalists to report other passages of the Pope’s homily, not just that one.
ZENIT: Your Excellency, one last wish in view of this great event.
Archbishop Bregantini: The wish is that, after the visit, it is as radiant, united and courageous as this preparation has been. The fact that I have been requested to express my greeting at the end and not at the beginning is a sign in this sense, because it helps us not to leave the event there as an idol, an end in itself, but to make it concrete, active and continuing. Somewhat as if the Pope were to say: gather what I have given you and let the bishop then be the bridge to continue on these indications, with continuity.
Jul 11 14 11:42 PM
Philippine bishops' conference launches theme of Pope Francis' 2015 visit
Pope Francis wants his visit in the Philippines next year to be pastoral and simple, Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila told reporters at a press briefing here Monday.
Tagle said Francis wants to particularly encounter those who have suffered from the recent calamities that hit the country. "Central to the visit of the pope" is to show solidarity and compassion to people affected by the latest calamities, he said at the briefing of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines in Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Paco, Manila, at the end of their July 5-7 semiannual plenary assembly.
The bishops' conference, however, has yet to finalize the date and itinerary of the pope's visit, which bishops expect the Vatican to announce sometime later this month or in August.
Last week, Tagle accompanied Vatican officials to Tacloban, Leyte, in preparation for the visit, including visiting possible sites for the pope's Mass in the central Philippines city ruined by November's Typhoon Haiyan. Proposed locations include the New Airport Apron in San Jose, Tacloban City, the government center in Palo, and the Tacloban Port area, the Palo archdiocese reported on its Facebook page.
"[Vatican officials] would then report to the Holy Father and the office in charge of the papal visit. We don't know what will happen next we will just wait," Tagle told reporters.
Philippines papal visit theme
Francis' visit to the Philippines next year is inspired by mercy and compassion, and the faithful should set their minds and hearts on this theme to prepare for the visit in communion with the pope, the bishops said in their July 7 pastoral letter on the papal visit, "A Nation of Mercy and Compassion."
"Our compassionate shepherd comes to show his deep concern for our people who have gone through devastating calamities, especially in the Visayas. He comes to confirm us in our faith as we face the challenges of witnessing to the joy of the Gospel in the midst of our trials," bishops said in their letter.
The bishops' conference said the most distinctive way to prepare spiritually for the coming of Pope Francis is for the Philippines to become a "people rich in mercy." It suggested people do acts of mercy every day, such as reaching out to a lonely stranger, advising a confused co-worker, giving food to a hungry beggar, or visiting those in prison.
Bishops reminded church members: "At the societal level, let us also not forget to address justice and mercy issues in the root causes of poverty and inequality in our country -- such as the protection of the environment, the completion of agrarian reform, and the continuing challenges of good governance, peace-building, and inclusive growth for all."
Catholics also need to prepare spiritually by confessing, "spending more time in Eucharistic adoration, reviving personal and family prayer and devotion in our homes," they added, encouraging priests to make themselves more available for this and more visible at the confessional.
"All of this opens to, nourishes, and sustains in our lives the gift of mercy from the heart of Jesus," the bishops said in their letter.
On July 5, bishops' conference President Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan asked his fellow prelates starting their assembly to prepare for the papal visit by following the example of Pope Francis.
This can be done, he said, by serving God's people with humility and happiness.
"As we prepare for the visit of Pope Francis next year, let us resolve as a fraternity of bishops to serve with humility and happiness; to speak with honesty from the mind and to listen patiently with the heart; to see the goodness in everyone and live the mercy of the Gospel," Villegas said.
Asian pilgrimage, Francis' longtime wish
During the Monday briefing, Tagle revealed that Pope Francis has long wanted to set foot in Asia.
"We learned that as a young Jesuit in Argentina, he had expressed the desire to become a missionary here in Asia, specifically in Japan, but it did not materialize because he was asked to remain in Buenos Aires. So Asia had a special spot in his heart," he said.
"This came from a heart of someone who probably has been longing this past years to step foot in Asia and to be here," Tagle added.
He said even when he invited Francis to come to the Philippines shortly after his election as pope, Francis told Tagle that he would visit Asia.
"A few months later, I met him again, and it came from him that Asia is important for evangelization. The Christian population in Asia may be numerically small but significant, and he wants to encourage the church in Asia," he said.
More than 60 percent of the world's population lives in Asia. Christians make up less than 3 percent of the region's people.
Tagle said the pope is aware of the sufferings of many Christians in Asia. "He told me that if he comes face to face with the Christians who were persecuted" and who have suffered, "he wants to kiss their hands and their feet in homage," Tagle recalled.
"You'll feel that it's not just for show. It comes sincerely from his heart, and he wants to confirm his brothers and sisters in faith," Tagle said.
Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato at an earlier press conference on the 2016 Eucharistic Congress expressed his wish for the pope to visit Central Mindanao, where Cotabato is based. He told reporters then: "I was simply wishing that perhaps for the Holy Father when he comes to the Philippines to visit [Haiyan] victims, he can have a side trip if his time allows to go to Cotabato City and perhaps push the peace process there."
Quevedo said: "If the pope is coming to visit disaster areas, there are also victims of man-made disasters," such as people displaced and villages ravaged by armed clashes.
"After all, [Francis] already went to Palestine and gave a very good message not only in words, but also in gestures, calling for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East, particularly between the Palestinians and the Israelis," Quevedo told reporters at the June 10 press conference. "He said a papal visit with victims of disasters would show support of the Holy See for victims of disaster," not only with monetary or material aid, but "most important through prayer."
Jul 17 14 3:29 AM
Various rumours were wafted about regarding the Pope’s upcoming visit to the Italian city of Caserta on 26 July. The Pope was initially going to pay a private visit to an old friend of his, the evangelical pastor Giovanni Traettino. Today, the southern Italian diocese officially announced that Jorge Mario Bergoglio will be visiting Caserta on two separate days, on Saturday 26 and Monday 28. On the 26th he will also be meeting with a group of local faithful. The Holy See Press Office confirmed the announcement. Italian daily newspaper Mattino published the news of the Pope’s visit to Caserta last week. The Holy See Press Office confirmed that following an encounter Pope Francis had with a group of evangelical pastors in the Vatican last month, the pontiff told a pastor - an old friend of his whom he had met in Buenos Aires – that he wished to pay a quick and private morning visit to his church in Caserta. The Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, immediately clarified that the visit “is under study and would likely take place on July 26th.” There was a great deal of uncertainty regarding this unexpected visit in the days that followed. Yesterday, Italian newspaper Il Corriere del Mezzogiorno reported that the Bishop of Caserta, Giovanni D’Alise, who was recently appointed by Pope Francis, apparently personally wrote to the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, expressing the city’s desire to embrace Francis, even if only quickly. This was not officially confirmed either by the Vatican or the diocese of Caserta which actually seemed surprised by the news of the Pope’s visit. It learnt about this through the media. It got to this morning and the Church of the Reconciliation in Caserta – Fr. Traettino’s church - still hadn’t confirmed the news. Meanwhile, members of the Vatican police and officials from the Inspectorate of Public Security at the Vatican turned up in Caserta to carry out a private inspection of the area. The local bishop and then the Vatican officially confirmed the visit in the early afternoon. Pope Francis will be visiting Caserta twice. On Saturday 26 at 6 pm, Jorge Mario Bergoglio will celebrate a mass in honour of Caserta’s patron, St. Anne, in the square in front of the Royal Palace of Caserta. Mgr. D’Alise said that prior to this Francis would hold a private 45 minute meeting with the diocese’s bishop and priests. The Pope will travel to and from Caserta by helicopter, leaving from Rome. Francis will return two days later, on Monday 28, to pay a strictly private visit to the evangelical pastor. It is likely this visit will take place in the morning.
Jul 21 14 7:38 AM
Jul 25 14 8:14 AM
Archbishop Chaput confirms pope to visit Philadelphia in September 2015
FARGO, N.D. (CNS) -- Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said Pope Francis has accepted his invitation to attend the World Meeting of Families in the U.S. next year.
Archbishop Chaput made the announcement July 24 before giving his homily during the opening Mass of the Tekakwitha Conference in Fargo.
Pope Francis accepts a replica of the Liberty Bell from Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter as Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput looks on during the pope's general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican March 26. Archbishop Chaput announced July 24 that the pope has accepted his invitation to attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia next year. (CNS file/Paul Haring)
"Pope Francis has told me that he is coming," said the archbishop as he invited his fellow Native Americans to the 2015 celebration being held in Philadelphia Sept. 22-27.
"The pope will be with us the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of that week," he said.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said July 25 Pope Francis has expressed "his willingness to participate in the World Meeting of Families" in Philadelphia, and has received invitations to visit other cities as well, which he is considering. Those invitations include New York, the United Nations and Washington.
Some Mexican media have cited government officials saying a September trip to North America also could include stops in Mexico, but Father Lombardi said that at this moment "nothing operational has begun relative to a plan or program for a visit to the United States or Mexico. Keep in mind, there is still more than a year to go before the meeting in Philadelphia."
Jul 25 14 11:54 AM
Horrible news. I hope he will never make it... and, definetely, not be the bishop of Rome till then.
Jul 25 14 10:29 PM
Jul 25 14 10:32 PM
Pope Francis is coming to Philadelphia – but where else will he visit?
(RNS) It’s been the worst-kept secret in Christendom, but this week Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput gave the strongest indication yet that Pope Francis will visit Philadelphia next year.
“Pope Francis has told me that he is coming,” Chaput said Thursday (July 25) before delivering a homily at a Mass in Fargo, N.D.
Chaput, a member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi tribe, was in Fargo for a conference on Native Americans and invited his fellow Native Americans to the Eighth World Meeting of Families, set to take place in Philadelphia from Sept. 22-27, 2015.
“The pope will be with us the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of that week,” Chaput said, according to Catholic News Service. That would be Sept. 25-27.
Only the Vatican can officially confirm a papal visit, and such an announcement is not expected until six months or so before the visit.
A follow-up statement by the Philadelphia archdiocese on Friday reiterated that fact and said that while Chaput’s comments “do not serve as official confirmation, they do serve to bolster our sincere hope that Philadelphia will welcome Pope Francis next September.”
The statement said that Chaput’s “personal conversations with the Holy Father are the foundation for that confidence.”
The Vatican also sought to rein in speculation on Friday, issuing a cautious statement saying that Philadelphia is one of several invitations that Francis “is carefully considering.”
“The Holy Father has indicated his willingness to participate” in the Philadelphia event, said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman.
But, he added, “at the present moment, there are no concrete plans or programs for any visits to the United States or Mexico. Keep in mind that we are still one year away from the Philadelphia meeting.”
A papal visit to Philadelphia has been a likelihood since June 2012, when then-Pope Benedict XVI announced that the city would host the global Catholic conference on family life, and that he intended to be there.
When Benedict resigned in February of 2013 and Francis was elected two weeks later, it was assumed that the new pope would also make the trip; a native Argentine, Francis has never been to the U.S. in any capacity.
Vatican officials have been visiting Philadelphia in recent months to start organizing the daunting logistics entailed in a papal visit and the massive crowds that the popular Francis will surely draw.
Also, in 2012, the Knights of Columbus, a leading Catholic charitable organization, donated $1 million to the archdiocese as a down payment on the enormous costs of the visit.
The money is key: Philadelphia has been hit hard by legal fees and settlements from the clergy sex abuse scandal, and declines in churchgoing and contributions have forced Chaput to make painful cutbacks to programs and to close parishes. It was unrealistic to expect the cash-strapped archdiocese to foot the bill for the trip.
The real question now may be where else the pontiff will visit: New York? Washington? Maybe even the border with Mexico to make a statement on immigration?
All three venues are possible, even likely.
New York has been a priority for every pope who has visited the U.S. since pontiffs began traveling internationally in the 1960s, and the United Nations General Assembly will be in session in late September 2015. Church observers say it’s hard to believe Francis will not address the world body to press his concerns about world peace, human rights, and economic inequality.
A stopover in Washington is also a possibility.
Last March, on the first anniversary of Francis’ election, House leaders invited Francis to become the first pope to address a joint session of Congress. Other popes have visited the White House. Benedict was the last to do so, meeting President George W. Bush there in 2008.
The real wild card is the possibility that Francis would visit the U.S. border with Mexico, as Mexican leaders and some church officials have said he might. That would make a powerful statement about immigration, a contentious issue in American politics.
Francis has made the treatment of migrants and refugees a core theme of his pontificate: He traveled to the Italian island of Lampedusa in his first official papal trip to celebrate Mass in memory of the untold numbers of Africans who have drowned in desperate efforts to flee poverty and danger.
That act inspired a Mass on behalf of immigrants that leading U.S. bishops celebrated in Arizona in April at the 30-foot security wall that the U.S. has built along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Jul 26 14 5:40 PM
Last week there were reports about Pope Francis coming to America, based on something Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said during a national gathering of Native American Catholics in Fargo, N.D. In a nutshell, Chaput said that Francis will visit Philadelphia in late September 2015 for a Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families. If this sounded slightly familiar, it should. There have been previous cycles of the same reports over the last 18 months, and probably will be again. Here’s the deal. The World Meeting of Families is a Vatican event that’s been staged in various cities around the world every three years since 1994. In February 2013, before Francis was elected, the Vatican announced that the next edition would be held in Philadelphia. Although popes don’t always attend, it was taken for granted that the pontiff would go to the first one in the United States. Not long after his election, Francis met with Chaput and expressed a desire to come, and they’ve been in contact about it off and on since. For Chaput, it’s obviously important to know the pope’s intentions, because the logistical challenges change dramatically depending on whether or not the pope is coming. Francis has also told the Vatican official in charge of family issues, Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, that he intends to make the trip. However, the Vatican never confirms a papal trip this far ahead. The usual protocol is that officials confirm the pope’s plans two or three months in advance, and then release a program perhaps a month later. As a result, what’s happened over the past year is that every so often a reporter will approach either Chaput or Paglia about the trip, and they’ll say Francis is planning to do it. Or, as in the North Dakota example, Chaput or Paglia will appear in public and make an unsolicited reference to the pope coming. In either case someone will write it up, the Vatican will then issue statements of caution, and the whole thing fades away until the next cycle.
Jul 29 14 4:16 AM
Jul 31 14 3:02 AM
Card. Tagle: Asia awaits Pope Francis
Vatican Radio) “The Holy Father has captured the imaginations not only of Catholics and Christians in Asia but even of the non-Christians” says Cardinal Louis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, the Philippines.
In less than two weeks’ time Pope Francis will embark on his first Apostolic Journey to Asia when he flies to Korea August 14th. Moreover his first foreign trip of 2015 – confirmed this week by the Vatican – will be a return journey to the continent, this time to Sri Lanka and the Cardinal’s homeland, the Philippines.
In a lengthy interview with Emer McCarthy, Cardinal Tagle says that from the outset of his pontificate, Pope Francis expressed his deep desire to visit the churches of Asia; he speaks of how the Pope has ‘ignited a flame’ in Asian minds; of the importance of Asian Youth Days in faith formation; of how the Philippines is preparing for the Papal visit in January 2015 and of how the upcoming Synod on the Family is not just about divorced and re-married Catholics.
********This is the Pope’s first visit to Asia, has it sparked any interest in wider society is there an awareness that he is coming?
“The Holy Father has captured the imaginations not only of Catholics and Christians in Asia but even of the non-Christians. They see his sincerity, how he embodies the Gospel truth in a way that is noble, down to earth, so near and yet quite transcendent. In Asia people love that. While we are very respectful of authority, in our hearts we want to see that transcendent authority in the flesh, coming to us and so we are just fascinated by this and the Holy Father has ignited a flame in the hearts and minds of many Asian people”.
The Pope will attend celebrations for the Asian Youth Day which is in it’s 6th edition, is this the Asian version of the World Youth Day?
“The Asian Youth Day celebration happens in between two World Youth Days (WYD), to bring to the youth here in Asia the fruits of the WYD and also to prepare for the coming WYD. My former diocese in Imus was the host diocese for the last Asian Youth Day so I was part of the team that welcomed the youth of Asia. So I remember clearly when the youth delegates and I presented the Cross to the next host diocese from Korea. The Asian Youth Day is not as big as the WYD. In fact the organizers want to keep the official delegates to around two thousand, so that the delegates can experience intense formation, intense moments of prayer, intense community building. But because the Pope will be coming I am sure more young people will be invited and I know that the young and not so young from the Philippines are planning to go to Korea to see the Pope”.
What has the reaction been to the announcement of the 2015 Philippines visit how are you preparing for it?
“The Filipino people are just ecstatic! And what a coincidence! 20 years ago in January, Pope John Paul II came to Manila for the World Youth Day, 1995…that was a pure coincidence but how God works! (I was at the Mass celebrated by John Paul the Beloved at Rizal Park, where an estimated 4 Million people were gathered. I can categorically say that it was an incredible experience - there were people sitting or standing on every square inch of pavement as far as the eye could see, yet everyone was peaceful and serene, listening to John Paul's voice on radio. And if I remember correctly, the crime rate in the city dropped to zero! Francis will get a reception that will make WYD in Brazil pale in comparison. I only wish Papa Emerito had been able to come to the Philippines - he would have been overwhelmed by the warmth and exuberance of the welcome that would have awaited him.) The historic visit of Pope John Paul encountering the people of the world. Now Pope Francis is following in his footsteps. But he is not just encountering young people. He is coming especially to meet with the people who suffered on account of the typhoons and earthquakes that hit the country last year.
Immediately after the Conclave in one of our conversations I invited the Holy Father to Asia, especially the Philippines where you have almost half of the Christian population of all of Asia. He told me that he would love to go to Asia, especially because due to his age and health reasons Pope Benedict was not able to do a pastoral visit in Asia. He repeated this to me last June – and this was before the Typhoon – I want to go to Asia. So he even asked us to start thinking of a program. And since in the Philippines 2014 was dedicated to the laity we thought we could have this as a theme for the Holy Father. Then the Typhoon came. The visit now acquired a new configuration. It’s not just a general or generic visit, but especially to show the Holy Father’s solidarity with the victims and survivors and to pray with these people. And I also hope that he will be inspired by the resilience tenacity and deep faith of the people who have gone through horrible times”.
These next few months will be intensely busy for you. Not only are you preparing for this papal visit, but you are also one of the three Presidents appointed by the Pope to preside over the October Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family.
“In terms of preparation, this extraordinary synod is linked to the ordinary synod of bishops that will happen next year – so this is quite unique – two consecutive assemblies linked in process and in theme. This first gathering will set the status quaestionis with the help of episcopal conferences, experts and observers worldwide we want to see the situation of the family all over the globe.”
“Here in the Philippines there was an extensive response to the questionnaire. Many dioceses really took the survey issued by the secretariat of the Synod of Bishops seriously. So we have a sizable collection of data that will be the core of the contribution of the Philippine Church to the Synod. I myself saw the need for the evangelization of the family here in the Philippines which is a predominantly Christian, Catholic country.”
“Attending the preparatory meetings I also realized that part of the richness of the Synod is the diversity of situations, challenges and it is exciting to see how the one Gospel, the one Truth we hold on to could be expressed pastorally in diverse ways”.
Here in the west the main preoccupation ahead of the Synod seems to be with the issue of divorced and remarried Catholics, but there are other issues that perhaps we in the West overlook…
“While not minimizing the importance of that question, for example in most Asian countries – even the not predominantly Christians countries – we do not have divorce. But there is a type of separation that is happening. Not because couples are fed up with one another or don’t want to see each other anymore or want to abandon the family. There is a separation of married people due to poverty, due to wars. This is a painful type of separation. For example here in the Philippines we have couples finding employment outside of the country and they bear the pain of being separated from their spouses and families. But they are willing to be separated out of love. So poverty, poverty is one big area. This also leads to the question of forced migration, because poverty forces people to separate. Here in Asia you still have a lot of refugees and stateless people who are not cared for, imagine the impact on the family. This is just one of the burning issues in Asia.
I can mention another area, the families in Asia are becoming the locus for inter-religious dialogue. Inter-religious dialogue and you think right away of theologians schools of philosophy etc…but now it is happening in the family and how are we equipping the Catholic partner to engage in a serious interreligious dialogue with their spouses and how can a family be family in an inter-religious setting. And we say if the families could discover the secret than maybe they can led it to wider society, so diversity in religious affiliations would not be a deterrent to peace and unity”.
Jul 31 14 5:07 AM
Jul 31 14 10:07 PM
Pope to attend ecumenical meetings and meet poor children on visit to Albania
The schedule for Francis’ trip to the Albanian capital Tirana on 21 September has been released. Archbishop Mirdita said the Albanian martyr Church is an example of coexistence
On his forthcoming trip to the Albanian capital, Tirana, on Sunday 21 September, Pope Francis will meet with State and religious leaders, the local clergy and some children who are being cared for in various charity organisations. The Holy See Press Office has published the full schedule of the Pope’s one-day visit, during which he will give six speeches.
Francis will depart from Rome’s Fiumicino airport at 7:30 am (CET) and will arrive at Tirana’s “Mother Teresa” international airport at 9 am. Here. The Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama will be there to welcome him. At 9:30 am there will be a welcome ceremony in the square in front of the Presidential Palace, after which the Pope will pay a courtesy visit to the President, Bujar Nishani in the “Green Study”. At 10 am Francis will have a meeting with the country’s political leaders and will deliver his first speech.
At 11 am, the Pope will celebrate mass in in Mother Teresa Square and the Angelus prayer will follow after another brief speech. At 1:30 pm Francis will meet and lunch with Albanian bishops in the Apostolic Nunciature.
At 4 pm the Pope will meet with leaders of other religions and Christian denominations at the Catholic University “Our Lady of Good Counsel”. At 5 pm he will celebrate Vespers with priests, religious sisters and brothers, seminarians, and members of various lay movements at St. Paul’s Cathedral. At 6:30 pm he is due to meet with children from the “Centro Betania,” along with representatives from other charitable institutions of Albania. The Pope will give a speech on each of these three occasions.
The visit will conclude with a farewell ceremony at Mother Teresa airport at 7:45 pm. He will depart for Rome at 8 pm and is scheduled to arrive at Rome’s Ciampino airport at 9:30 pm.
The Albanian Church is grateful for the Pope’s visit, the Archbishop of Tirana, Mgr. Rrok Mirdita, told Vatican Radio.
“It is thanks to our Church’s communion with the successor of Peter and our loyalty towards him that our people have experienced the feeling of belonging to the universal Church, even when the successor of Peter and the universal Church were considered to be enemies of the nation. I am thinking of the persecution during the regime of Communist dictator Enver Hoxha brought Albania's religions closer together,” the archbishop underlined. “ Now it is the successor of Peter who is turning his attention toward us and is coming to visit us to confirm us in the faith and pay tribute to Catholic martyrdom and suffering and not only. The Albanian Church awaits his arrival with joy and affection but other religions and non-believers also deeply esteem and respect him.”
Mirdita recalls that persecution during the communist regime strengthened the bonds between religions and the four main communities (Sunni Muslims, Orthodox, Catholics and Bektashi Muslims) cohabit peacefuly. "Some suggested that sectarian tensions would follow on the fall of Communism, but that didn't happen," he said.
Twenty one years after John Paul II visited Albania, the Archbishop of Tirana recalls that his visit was like a loving caress on the tortured body of a martyr Church. It brought light to the entire nation. He rebuilt the Church hierarchy and consecrated the first four bishops.” Now, he continued, "society has changed a lot, but some challenges remain the same, like corruption, poverty, unemployment, organized crime and justice.”
Aug 1 14 5:58 AM
Aug 5 14 10:42 AM
What makes Asia the continent of the future, as the Catholic Church’s mission amongst others believes it is, is the fact that it is the young people’s continent. According to data published by the US Census Bureau the world is home to three billion people below the age of 25, 60% of whom live in Asia. Almost half of the total Asian population (over 4 billion people) are under 25s. Today, young Asians are at the forefront of development, the economy and culture. They defend their rights and freedoms and are launching new technologies as a challenge to gain ground: Asia is the continent of today - if we look as giants such as China and India – but, even more so, of the future. In many countries (India, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and others) the young show a rare vitality and strength in taking action. They do so without turning away from religion, the pull towards the transcendent and their need for profound spirituality. The Catholic Church is aware of this and pays a great deal of attention to Asia and its huge community of young people. Asia is the continent of the Church’s mission in the third millennium, John Paul II said in documents such as the “Redemptoris missio” (1990) and the post-Synodal Exhortation “Ecclesia in Asia” (1998). The subject of evangelization has been at the centre of Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences’ (FABC) reflections. “I must go to Asia,” Pope Francis said a year ago on the return flight from Brazil after the World Youth day celebrations. With his Asian voyages (to Korea from 14 to 18 August), Sri Lanka and the Philippines (which have just been confirmed and will take place between 12 and 19 January 2015) Francis is putting his words into action. In Korea, Francis will have the chance to meet Asian bishops and also address the young people gathered for Asian Youth Day, an Asian version of the John Paul II’s World Youth Day, first launched in 1999. Despite the fact that Asia is not only the world’s largest continents but also the region with the starkest inequalities (pluralism pervades it on all levels: geographically, socio-economically and in terms of religion, is has undergone radical social, economic, demographical and cultural transformations in the last thirty years. These transformations have had an immense impact on new generations. The young Asians of today grew up in the post-colonial era and this has given them access to primary education as a universal right. They have been absorbing the new languages of mass media and have been immersed in globalization since the minute they were born. This is true whether they live in developing countries like Vietnam and Timor East - where young people account for 60% of the total population – or advanced societies like Japan and South Korea; in Muslim countries such as Pakistan and Indonesia or nations with huge inequalities such as China or India: the fact is that young Asians seemed determined to shape their own future even if their leaders belong to the old generations, as is true in most cases. Education and the new technologies are essentially the means to become protagonists in tomorrow’s world. Access to education – despite having been ratified as a right in most Asian countries – is still an illusion. In many countries, poverty makes it impossible to access. Ever since its establishment in Asia, the Catholic Church has made education a key element of its mission, committing itself to improving a sector that is vital for the development of a relationship with the young generations. The Church in India runs over 25 thousand educational institutions that are open to everyone. In the small country of South Korea there are 328 Catholic institutions with over 220, 000 students. The Philippines hold the record with over 20 Catholic universities and over 1,300 higher education institutes. The “new media” on the other hand have proven to be extraordinarily efficient as tools for conditioning the political, economic and cultural life of a country. In other words, they are the means for young people to gain back their “importance”, to influence the dominant elites, to find space for their ideas and promote values such as lawfulness and transparency. The Church’s pastoral care programme for young Asians has focused primarily on these two elements in order to communicate Christ’s message to them. For example, in the Philippines – where the second nonviolent revolution in 2001 spread via text message – social media are already commonly used communication tools that keep society connected and the Church is making the most of them too. In countries such as South Korea and Japan, technology, which is an integral part of the life of individuals and the nation as a whole, is as much a part of the religious experience as it is in the West. In this context, young people are “agents of true change and transformation before their respective church communities, families and friends...,” said Bishop Joel Baylon, President of the Filipino Bishops' Conference Youth Commission. “With Asian Youth Day (AYD), it is hoped that their faith will be strengthened, they will grow in their enthusiasm, and they will become protagonists in the mission,” Baylon explained. This wish will be heard in Korea, where representatives of thirty countries will be present to attend the AYD. It will also be heard by young people from countries such as China, Laos and Burma, where the Church is facing hard times. The Asian World Youth Day, he added, aims to “help young people find God in today’s world, to turn them into genuine missionaries in their families, communities, Churches and nations.” “Young Asians live their faith in Christ immersed in societies that are becoming increasingly materialistic and individualistic,” the bishop went on to say. “With the AYD we are trying to create a more functional networking of churches in Asia that will be a venue for sharing experiences/success stories and working together on a pastoral level.” Francis is a Pope who is able to connect with young Asians too thanks to his spontaneity and transparency. “Hopefully, his visit will be an impetus for all Asian communities to multiply their initiatives for the evangelisation of young people. Particularly thanks to the contribution of the young people themselves who will leave Korea with a new energy and charged with an enthusiasm that they can transmit to their peers back home,” Baylon said. The Church urgently needs more young people. The evangelization of the new generations is one of the priorities of the Korean Church for the years to come. From 2000 onwards, the number of Korean Catholics under the age of 40 gradually started to drop. Korea suggested national youth gatherings and launched various initiatives in schools and universities, campus missions for example. Young people need to feel directly included and in Asia, this can happen in crucial areas such as education and peace, sustainable development and interreligious dialogue. Young Asians also like getting involved in sports and mass media and these are other areas, which the pastoral care programme for young people has often focused on. Human efforts are one thing but “it is Christ who warms the heart,” Sunny Manoj, an Indian Catholic recalled. Manoj has been working with the young people’s pastoral care programme for 22 years and has been in charge of over 800 training programmes in forty Asian countries. “Once young people find Christ, they cannot wait to share this joy with their friends.” This is the power of evangelization. Francis will remind them that Jesus of Nazareth is the happiness that young people seek and that only He can fulfill their lives. As the “Evangelii Gaudium” says, young Asians can and want to be wayfarers of the faith who are happy to bring Jesus into every street, square and corner of the Asian continent.
Aug 14 14 8:39 PM
Pope Francis in Philly: Q&A with Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., is the current archbishop of Philadelphia. A member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi tribe, he is the first Native American archbishop. He holds a B.A. in philosophy from St. Fidelis College Seminary and an M.A. in religious education from Capuchin College. He also studied psychology at the Catholic University of America.
Although the Holy See has yet to confirm the visit, Archbishop Chaput announced on July 24 that Pope Francis will be visiting Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families on Sept. 22-25, 2015, as part of his first pastoral visit to the United States. On Aug. 11, I interviewed Archbishop Chaput by email about his expectations for this visit.
You recently announced that Pope Francis will be visiting Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families next year. What will Pope Francis see in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia?
There's never any guarantee that the pope will attend until the Holy See officially confirms it. That usually happens about six months in advance. But we're confident at this point that he intends to come if circumstances allow.
Philadelphia is the birthplace of the United States. It's where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed, and it's one of the great cities of our country. The church here, even after the legal and financial difficulties of the last decade, has a wonderful legacy and a deep reservoir of good will among the people. So I think the pope will experience one of the iconic American Catholic communities in a powerful and joyful way.
Given the pope’s enormous popularity, as evidenced by his record crowds at World Youth Day 2013 in Rio, what preparations will Philadelphia need to make for this visit?
We're expecting between 10,000 and 15,000 attendees for the talks and break-out sessions during the week—that's normal—but more than 1 million for the weekend papal visit and Mass.
There have also been reports that Pope Francis will visit New York to address the United Nations and Washington, D.C. to address a joint session of Congress. Can you confirm these reports?
That's a decision made by the Holy See in discussion with the national bishops' conference. The church in Philadelphia wouldn't necessarily be part of the discussion. So at this point, you know as much as I do.
What is the significance of the Holy Father visiting the United States at this time in his pontificate?
I'm not sure the timing is significant on his part. Marriage and family are obviously on his mind because he called both the extraordinary and ordinary synods to deal with the topics. But his concerns are much larger than the church in the United States. For us of course, the timing of his visit would be very important. The church in Philadelphia is just starting to recover from a very hard recent past. The presence of Pope Francis would have a great healing and renewing effect. And the country is currently absorbed in an ongoing debate about the nature of sexuality, marriage and family life, so his support for the Christian vision of marriage and family would have a ripple effect.
What will be the pope’s role in the World Meeting of Families?
He'll celebrate a major public Mass and take part in a number of interfaith, ecumenical and other encounters. But mainly he'll be here to encourage people to strengthen the bonds of love that can make their marriages and families a source of joy and a missionary witness.
What will your own role be?
The World Meeting of Families is actually the work of the Pontifical Council for Families. Philadelphia is the host city, but ultimately the PCF is in charge. My job is making sure that Philadelphia provides the kind of venue and experience that serves the evangelical purpose of the gathering. I believe we can do that in a memorable way.
What are your expectations for the World Meeting of Families?
A great time of Christian fellowship across national borders and cultures, and the seed of renewal for the church here.
What do you hope Pope Francis will take from his visit to Philadelphia?
The church is alive in the United States, and Americans have a hunger for the Gospel.
What do you hope Philadelphians will take from the pope’s visit?
A global sense of the Catholic community, the needs of the church beyond North America, and the obligations to each other that go with our baptism. One other thing: Philadelphia can have a tough exterior, but that's a mask. Its people have a deep, deep well of goodness, and they deserve to recover their joy and pride in the beauty of the Catholic faith, despite all the current moral conflicts in American culture. No one can stay sad—nobody can be bitter or defeatist—when he or she really encounters Jesus Christ. Pope Francis has the gift of bringing people to that encounter. That's what I hope for my people.
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